Department of Interior Set to Weaken Safety Regulations Implemented in the Wake of Deepwater Horizon Explosion.
New York, NY - January 30, 2018 - New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and a coalition of Attorneys General submitted comments to the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), opposing the proposed weakening of the agency’s regulations governing safety systems for offshore oil and gas production. The purpose of the regulations, updated and implemented in 2016 after the Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill, was to reduce the environmental and safety risks associated with offshore drilling.
“The risks of offshore drilling were made painfully clear by disasters like Deepwater Horizon,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “These risks – to human lives and to our natural resources – are not theoretical; they are concrete, enduring, and profound. To roll back the very safety protections put in place after Deepwater Horizon is deeply irresponsible – and unlawful.”
The 2016 regulatory revisions took effect on November 7, 2016. When BSEE issued those revisions, it noted that changes were “necessary to improve human safety, environmental protection, and regulatory oversight of critical equipment involving production safety systems,” and were “intended to improve worker safety and protection of marine and coastal ecosystems by helping to reduce the number of production-related incidents resulting in oil spills, injuries, and fatalities.” Barely a year later, at the same time the Department is proposing expanding offshore drilling operations, BSEE has proposed another significant overhaul of the production safety systems regulations.
“Any changes now that effectively weaken safety standards and procedures would be arbitrary and capricious or otherwise unlawful, particularly at a time when the Department of the Interior is simultaneously considering a plan to radically expand the scope of offshore drilling. The dangers of drilling expansion, which we strongly oppose, will only be intensified if your agency weakens safety standards,” the Attorneys General wrote.
The comments were led by Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and signed by the Attorneys General of New York, Maryland, Massachusetts, Maine, North Carolina, and Virginia.